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Decade’s best No. 9: Chris Persing enjoyed a fabulous run with Muncy’s baseball program

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the latest in a series looking back at the top 10 baseball teams, coaches, games and players from last decade

The stage was his, but Muncy Chris Persing gave the supporting cast receive the praise.

Muncy defeated Millville early in the 2014 season, giving Persing his 200th career win. Persing is one of few area coaches to ever reach that lofty number, but the moment was not about him. It never has been.

“It feels good. It’s (assistant) coaches like Mark (Knight) and (Dale) Michael who have been so helpful and all the good players we’ve had that help you get those wins,” Persing said afterward. “We’re a small school so we need everyone to get everyone to play and we’re fortunate to get some really good players playing multiple sports each year.”

Persing does not want the credit or seek it. But he deserves a lot. The long-time Muncy coach enjoyed a fabulous 15-year tenure before taking three years off between last decade and returning in 2018. Persing has led Muncy to the postseason 16 times in his 17 seasons with the Indians capturing four district championships, reaching three state semifinals and the 2004 state championship. The success continued last decade with Muncy making the playoffs in each of Persing’s first six years.

It is not just that Persing knows the game like a book, he also possesses super people skills and is about to consistently push his players to be the best they can be. There were no true super stars at Muncy last decade, but the program continued flourishing and nearly made another state final in 2011.

That Muncy enjoyed that remarkable 2011 success was a testament to both Persing and his tough, well-rounded players. A year after finishing 13-8, Muncy was decimated with injuries. Brendan Bonnell, Tim Coburn and Jimmy Appleman were expected to carry the pitching load, but all three suffered early-season injuries that prevented them all from throwing anymore, expect for Bonnell who threw a few innings of postseason relief. Bonnell could still hit and play the field and combined with fellow seniors Matt Ring, Trent Sellers, Lee Fry and Collin Ruby to ignite a second-half surge. Persing also developed an excellent pitcher in Doug Zehner who improbably led the area in wins with 11 while shining throughout the playoffs.

Muncy started the season 6-4 before elevating its performance and taking off. The Indians featured one of the area’s top offenses and frequently came back to win games, erasing 6-0 and 9-0 deficits against rival Montgomery for a regular-season sweep. Muncy rallied from behind to win the HAC-III championship.

“With Brendan and Timmy out and Jimmy not able to play it didn’t bother them. It was like, ‘this is who we’ve got so we’re going to go with what we’ve got.’ It was never an issue of ‘What are we going to do?'” Persing said. “It comes down to Matt Ring, Brendan Bonnell, Trent Sellers, Collin Ruby and Lee Fry. Those five guys playing the sports they have in their four years understand that’s part of the game. Those five seniors never let it become an issue for anybody.”

That was especially true in the playoffs when Muncy played its best baseball. The Indians outscored three district opponents, 30-5 and opened their championship push by pounding an Elkland team which eliminated it a year earlier, 15-0. Muncy then turned a two-run, fourth-inning deficit into an 8-2 win against Canton, a team seeking its third straight District 4 Class A final appearance as seven players combined for 10 hits.

And after those two earlier huge comebacks against Montgomery, Muncy had the Raiders right where they wanted them, trailing 2-0 in the final. Zehner threw another gem, Ring homered and Muncy captured the program’s fourth district title, winning 5-2.

“We’re used to being down but it’s not a bad thing. It fuels us and we get more hits and more

hits,” catcher Dawson Fox said after going 3 for 4. “We know we have to stay tough and battle it out. You have to have faith you’re going to keep hitting the ball.”

“People don’t realize how hard it is to get here. It’s just so hard to do,” Persing said. “On any given day in a single-elimination tournament anybody can win. To play like this three games in a row, it’s been fun and satisfying.”

Muncy continued having fun in the state tournament, thumping both Old Forge and Salisbury Elk Lick by a 15-3 margin to reach the Final 4. Reading Central Catholic ended Muncy’s state title dreams, but its 20 wins were the third most in program history and these Indians took their place along side some of the best teams the school ever produced.

Muncy kept producing good seasons the next few years as well and gave Canton one of its toughest playoff games on its road to the 2013 state final. Muncy took the Warriors to extra innings, missed a go-ahead hit by inches in the eighth and lost a 2-1, eight-inning semifinal heartreaker.

“It’s tough. We obviously came here to win, but the kids have to hold their heads high because they played a good game,” Persing said. “Sometimes it just doesn’t go your way.”

The 2014 team featured just three seniors, but Persing guided it to13 wins before stepping away for the next three years. He returned in 2018 and again helped a team made enormous strides throughout the season. Muncy started 2-6 before winning six straight games, reaching districts and giving eventual champion South Williamsport a scare in the quarterfinals.

“Coach has always had great teams at Muncy in the past and they’ve all gone through their bumps in the road, but it looks like we found ours and got over it soon enough,” Tanner Gold said after going 3 for 4 in a late-season win at St. John Neumann. “Coach’s mentality the last couple weeks has been great. It’s fun out here. It’s getting good.”

Even when Persing and Muncy did not reach the playoffs for the first time in his 17 seasons last year, it stood as one of his best coaching performances. Again, Muncy was ravaged by injuries, especially to its pitching staff. The Indians were young and so depleted a one point later in the season that only nine players dressed for a doubleheader against Sullivan County. And yet Muncy took the second game against the playoff-bound Griffins 9-8. The Indians heated up over the final two weeks as well, winning four of their last six games.

“We’re getting good leadership and understanding the situation we’re in and battling and competing,” Persing said after the Sullivan County win. “That’s all we ask is they compete and let’s see what we can do.”

With Persing running the program, Muncy almost always does something good.

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